I am a huge fan of plays and musicals. And this week, I got to attend the current big-daddy of them all: Hamilton. If you don’t know what Hamilton is, it is a genre-bending, Broadway musical with a hip-hop story-line based on Alexander Hamilton’s life.
Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s founding fathers who lived in the late 1757-1804. His portrait can be seen on every $10 bill. When we were in New York City a few years ago, Broadway tickets for Hamilton were priced at $1,000+ just to get in. I paid $180 for my Minneapolis ticket, and tickets were selling for $300 on second-hand sites. Based on this wicked-high-demand, obviously the musical Hamilton is connecting with a wide variety of people. This is why I’ve fallen in love with it:
When I was first introduced to Hamilton, I was skeptical that I’d like it. I am not the biggest hip-hop fan, and I’ve never listened to a Hip Hop musical before. But I’ve learned to love History, and different cultures, as I’ve traveled around America and the world. I’ve realized that everything comes from something. And if you can learn where things originated from, you can better understand the world you’re dealing with today. When I first listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on youtube, I started to catch the Hamilton bug. The lyrics described what the original America was like. It made me want to learn more about how America first started, and I started to watch a stream of documentaries on the larger-than-life characters who were the original leaders and founders of America. The human stories of people like: George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and of course, Alexander Hamilton, began to jump out of the musical at me.
So after finally seeing the Musical live this week, (I loved it!!!) here are six life-lessons I learned from the musical, Hamilton:
#1: Excuses are a waste of time in life.
Alexander Hamilton came from nothing when he was born in 1757. He was actually born in the Caribbean islands. His father eventually abandon their family when he was young, and his mother died a few years later. When he was a teenager, he traveled to America as an immigrant. But this didn’t stop Hamilton from growing up to be the right-hand man to the first president of the united states, George Washington.
Hamilton could have used his difficult childhood as an excuse to give up on his potential. He could have accepted his luckless and poor surroundings as his destiny. But instead he chose to use these misfortunes as fuel to become a more impactful human being than his peers who grew up as rich, privileged children.
Life lesson I learned: The conditions we are born into doesn’t determine the future of our life. The visions we see, and work toward, determine the future we will live.
#2: You are Responsible for your Own Education.
If you travel down the rabbit-hole of studying Hamilton’s life like I did in preparation to see the musical, you will discover that Hamilton was constantly reading, learning, and self-educating himself. For example, before joining the military, he read books on artillery and military strategy, prepared himself on how to succeed, and then enlisted. This taught me that it’s foolish to wait for people to teach you something. We can be our best teachers when we choose to take control of our own self-education.
But the biggest thing I learned from Hamilton, is that it’s not enough to just learn. The greatest leaders also take the second step of learning, and they purposely apply action to the things they learn. That second step is ultimately what made Hamilton great. He was constantly learning and applying action to the things he learned. He just kept repeating these two steps: learning and applying, and doing it over and over. And that simple two step process of learning and applying, done repetitively thousands of times, led him to the opportunities to accomplish extremely unique achievements in life.
Life Lesson I learned: The basic two steps to succeeding at anything is: 1) Learn. 2) Apply action to what you’ve learned. Repeat these steps thousands of times until you accomplish your dreams.
#3: Believe in yourself, before you expect other people to believe in you.
Hamilton didn’t grow up with a rich family constantly encouraging and supporting him. He decided he’d have to believe in himself before anyone else would.
George Washington’s assistant was one of the first people to notice him. Washington asked his assistant, “Who is that man?” Because he did things differently and confidently. His aide replied: “That’s Alexander Hamilton.” That’s where his legend began: from his first-impression of being an extremely confident man in front of another incredible leader.
Life lesson I learned: Being confident in yourself, your abilities, and your purpose, is one of the biggest ingredients to creating success. When you believe in yourself, and apply action to learning, you will begin to attract other people who want to believe in you too. All it takes is one opportunity for another great leader to believe in you, and you can begin to create the relationships that can change your life and the world.
#4: Pride can literally kill you. Be humble to be truly brilliant.
There is a healthy balance between pride and confidence, and unfortunately for Hamilton, he didn’t always walk this line perfectly. Confidence is described in the dictionary as: “A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s own abilities or qualities.” Pride is defined as: “An excessively high opinion of one’s own importance.”
In one instance of Hamilton’s overly prideful disposition, he decided to release the news of his marital affairs to the press, because he believed his reputation was stronger than it really was. But instead it caused political ruin for him.
This reminds me that I suffer from the consequences from my own pride at times. I have a bad habit of wanting to look like I am right, even when I am wrong. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel because he was too prideful to walk away from a disagreement. It made me realize that pride is one of the biggest things that can lead a great life to a tragic ending.
Life lesson I learned: When you’re overly prideful, you’re often the one who will get hurt the most.
#5: Sacrifice leads to greatness.
The older I get, the more I’m discovering that the greatest rewards in life directly come from the greatest sacrifices that we make. Hamilton really inspired this revelation to grow in my mind. Why? He accomplished some of the greatest achievements in American History because he was willing to sacrifice laziness and having an I-don’t-care-attitude. Hamilton assisted the founding of the Bank of New York which is now our national bank. He Authored 51 Federalist Papers which led to the development of the United States Constitution. He was a member of the confederation of congress; and was appointed by George Washington to be the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He accomplished all of this, by sacrificing a lot of his personal life, and the personal choice to be lazy.
Even though I personally don’t want to end up like Hamilton, the musical inspired me make stronger, more focused sacrifices in my own life. I’ll never be able to achieve my dreams, until I am willing to sacrifice the things that are keeping me from my dreams. You can’t achieve financial freedom, without sacrificing the spending that is keeping your bank account empty. Hamilton opened my mind to this human truth: The people who make it to greatness, all have stories of incredible sacrifice along the way.
Life Lesson I learned: If I want to be great at something, I first have to become great at sacrificing the things that are keeping me from my personal greatness.
#6: Have some fun along your way
Hamilton the musical ultimately reminded me to have some fun in my life. The way Hamilton, the musical, combined history, life, and love into a performance of music and dance, reminded me that all of our success and failures should also be an enjoyable experience to have.
We live in a beautiful world, where magical things happen to us on a daily basis. I want to live my life like it is a musical. Laugh out loud. Sing your favorite songs. Dance with the people you love. Ultimately, remember life is meant to be an enjoyable experience, and do everything you can to choreograph your future into an experience you love living. That is ultimately what wealth is: The ability to have fun and love your life. Life is short. You will be remembered for the action you put into your life. That’s what I learned from the musical I just saw.
In the words of Hamilton form the musical, “I am not throwing away my shot!”
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